Shopping is elevated to near spiritual heights in Tokyo, a modern-day temple to consumerism. First, pop into Mitsukoshi, one of the city’s oldest department stores, conveniently located on the doorstep of Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Next stop, Omotesando: wander along the wide leafy boulevard, past the big fashion stores, before exploring the minimalist Omotesando Hills shopping centre. A short stroll away, in Aoyama, there’s Issey Miyake’s 132.5 boutique, as well as Yohji Yamamoto and the Comme des Garçons flagship store. For an edgier retail fix, wander the lanes of Daikanyama, which are peppered with independent shops such as indigo-dying specialist Okura and music store Bonjour Records.
Swap neon lights for a taste of old Tokyo in Asakusa, the historic former pleasure district of the capital. Unmissable among the winding back lanes, food stalls and old-fashioned kimono stores is the red, tiered Senso-ji, the oldest temple in the city. Just follow the walkway of stalls selling traditional sweets and souvenirs.
Perfect for jet-lagged insomniacs is a sunrise pilgrimage to the city’s famous fish market, Tsukiji. Explore the colourful variety of unidentifiable maritime creatures on display, before tucking into the world’s freshest sushi breakfast at one of the small restaurants on the market’s fringes.
For a taste of Tokyo’s subculture, head to Harajuku. Wander past rainbow-bright tribes of crazily dressed young Tokyoites, and make a beeline for the elegant wooden gates at the entrance to Meiji Jingu, a serene Shinto shrine at the end of a path that cuts through a forest.
Aoyama isn’t just about shopping: Nezu Museum is home to a celebrated collection of traditional Japanese artefacts, and the Kengo Kuma-designed building – all bamboo walkways, walls of glass and pebbled paths – is equally eye-catching. Best of all are the gardens, a tumbling green enclave with ponds and a small tea room that feels a million miles from central Tokyo.
Design lovers should visit 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi. Housed in a semi-submerged, angular concrete-and-glass space designed by Tadao Ando, the museum shows an imaginative array of exhibitions. Meanwhile, slightly off the beaten track in Komaba is the Mingeikan Folk Crafts Museum. Set in an atmospheric, traditional wooden Japanese house on a quiet residential lane, the museum displays a beautiful collection of simple, functional and anonymous crafts.
With a hefty sprinkling of Michelin stars, Tokyo is foodie heaven. In Roppongi, the nightlife capital of Tokyo, the lively restaurant Robataya eschews a written menu. Instead, a variety of fresh seafood, meats and vegetables are laid out behind a U-shaped counter. Point to what you want to have and watch as the chefs pick it up on a long paddle, grill it on the spot and pass it back to you using the long paddle. Twenty minutes by car from the hotel, Esaki’s cuisine is inspiring and original. Chef Esaki conducts meticulous research on each product and his mastery of technique allows him to cross culinary boundaries. The same dishes are incorporated into both the lunch and dinner set menus; the prices differ according to the number of dishes but both are very appealing. Among the city’s most imaginative culinary experiences is the Tapas Molecular Bar, at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Don’t be surprised if you ‘breathe dragon fumes’ during a deft performance of mixology.